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Location Australia, Queensland
Central coordinates 143o 17.29' East  13o 11.23' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 620,476 ha
Altitude 0 - 824m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary Iron and McIlwraith Ranges IBA is one of the few known localities for the endangered Buff-breasted Button-quail. It supports an isolated population of the vulnerable Southern Cassowary, and populations of another three Cape York restricted-range species and four biome-restricted species.

Site description The Iron and McIlwraith Ranges are the most northerly extent of the Great Dividing Range, located in the north of the Cape York Peninsula, 750 km north of Cairns. The boundary of the IBA was drawn to encompass most of the area of closed forest in the region as well as significant areas of heathland vegetation suitable for White-streaked Honeyeater. This includes the Iron Range National Park, Iron Range Resources Reserve and the forested part of the Mungkan Kundju National Park. A range of other tenures is present within the area including aboriginal freehold and leasehold land. Much of the area has very poor sandy soils formed from eroded granite, which only support stunted heath which dominates this area. Richer soils produced by older, more easily eroded metamorphic rocks support lush rainforests, found to the east below the escarpment. The Iron and McIlwraith Ranges support the largest area of tropical rainforest on Cape York Peninsula which has close affinities with New Guinea. While many species found at Iron Range occur nowhere else in Australia, all these also occur in much larger numbers in New Guinea.

Key Biodiversity The ornithological fauna is a unique combination of New Guinean and Australian elements not found elsewhere on the Australian continent. As well as species of global conservation concern and assemblages of restricted-range species this area is also important for a number of species which occur in both New Guinea and Australia, but whose distributions in Australia are restricted to Cape York Peninsula. These include Palm Cockatoo, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Red-bellied Pitta, Trumpet Manucode, Magnificent Riflebird, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Yellow-legged Flycatcher; Tropical Scrub-wren and Frill-necked Monarch are sometimes considered full species endemic to Cape York. The southern end of the Mcllwraith Range represents the southern limit of the Australian distribution for a number of these species. Notable species which are rarely encountered within the IBA include the near threatened Australian Bustard, Bush Stone-curlew and Black-throated Finch, the restricted-range Green Catbird and Pied Monarch and the Australian Tropical Savanna biome-restricted White-gaped Honeyeater (Atlas of Australian Birds database). Graceful Honeyeaters are common in the ranges (S. Garnett and A. Freeman pers. obs).

Non-bird biodiversity: Iron and McIlwraith Ranges is significant for a number of species that mainly occur in New Guinea. Some examples include the cuscus Phalanger intercastellanus and Spilocuscus maculatus, the rufous spiny bandicoot Echymipera rufescens. The area also encompasses the entire known Australian distribution of the snake Morelia viridus. Cape York endemic species that are entirely confined to this area include the marsupial Antechinus leo, the varanid Varanus keithhorni and the frogs Cophixalus crepitans, C. peninsularis and Litoria longirostris. The Iron Range area is also the site of a closed tussock grassland ecosystem that is currently considered endangered (Sattler and Williams, 1999).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius resident  1998-2008  rare  A1  Vulnerable 
Buff-breasted Buttonquail Turnix olivii unknown  rare  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
Lovely Fairywren Malurus amabilis resident  1998-2008  common  A2  Least Concern 
Yellow Honeyeater Lichenostomus flavus resident  1998-2008  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater Meliphaga notata resident  1998-2008  abundant  A2  Least Concern 
Silver-crowned Friarbird Philemon argenticeps resident  1998-2008  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 
White-streaked Honeyeater Trichodere cockerelli resident  1998-2008  frequent  A2  Least Concern 
Banded Honeyeater Certhionyx pectoralis unknown  1998-2008  rare  A3  Least Concern 
Poecilodryas superciliosa resident  1998-2008  uncommon  A3  Not Recognised 

IBA Monitoring

2008 high not assessed not assessed
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Energy production and mining mining and quarrying likely in long term (beyond 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - trend unknown/unrecorded happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Far Northern Marine Park 1,393,656 protected area overlaps with site 229  
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park 34,440,000 protected area overlaps with site 229  
Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site 34,870,000 protected area is adjacent to site 0  
Iron Range National Park 47,090 protected area contained by site 47,100  
Iron Range Resource Reserve 8,670 protected area contained by site 8,670  
Mungkan Kandju National Park 456,000 protected area overlaps with site 14,161  
Silver Plains Fish Habitat Area A 12,665 protected area overlaps with site 895  
Temple Bay Fish Habitat Area A 3,930 protected area overlaps with site 181  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Eucalypt open forests; Eucalypt woodlands; Melaleuca forests & woodlands; Rainforest & vine thickets  major
Shrubland Heath  major

Land ownership Most of the area is currently under indigenous ownership but there is also a small amount of other freehold and the National Parks are co-managed with QPWS.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
hunting major
Notes: Traditional Use
nature conservation and research major
rangeland/pastureland major
other major
Notes: Traditional Use

Protection status The IBA overlaps with seven protected areas, two of which (Iron Range National Park and Iron Range Resources Reserve) are wholly contained within the IBA.

Acknowledgements The nomination was prepared by Alastair Freeman.

References Barrett, G., Silcocks, A., Cunningham, R. and Poulter, R. (2003) The new atlas of Australian birds. Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union: Melbourne.

Blakers, M., Davies, S.J.J.F., and Reilly, P.N. (1984). 'The atlas of Australian birds'. (Melbourne University Press: Melbourne.)

Fox, I.D., Neldner, V.J., Wilson, G.W., Bannick, P.J., Wilson, B.A., Brocklehurst, P.S., Clark, M.J., Dickinson, K.J.M., Beard, J.S., Hopkins, A.J.M., Beeston, G.R., Harvey, J.M., Thompson, E.J., Ryan, T.S., Thompson, S.L., Butler, D.W., Cartan,H., Addicot, E.P., Bailey, L.P., Cumming, R.J., Johnson D.C., Schmeider, M., Stephens, K.M., and Bean, A.R. 2001. The vegetation of the Australian tropical savannas. Queensland Herbarium, Environmental protection Agency, Queensland.

Garnett, S, and Crowely, G. (2000). 'The action plan for Australian birds'. (Environment Australia: Canberra.)

Leung, L., Venables B. and Pritchard, J. (1994). Terrestrial vertebrate fauna survey of the Iron Range area Cape York Peninsula 1993-1994. Unpublished report prepared for the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, Cairns.

Mathieson, M.T. and Smith, G.C., 2007. National recovery plan for the buff-breasted button-quail Turnix olivii. Report to Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Canberra. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane.

Moore, L.A. (2007) Population ecology of the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii, Mission Beach north Queensland. Journal of Ornithology 148: 357-366.

Neldner, V.J. and Clarkson, J. (1996). Broad vegegtation groups of Cape york Peninsula.A map prepared for the Queensland Herbarium and Department of Environment.

Sattler, P. and Williams, R. (1999). The conservation status of Queensland's bioregional ecosystems. (Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane).

Winter, J.W. (1980). McIllwraith Range closed forest fauna survey. Final report (outline) compiled for ANPWS. Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane.

Winter, J.W. and Lethbridge, P.J. (1994). Terrestrial vertebrate fauna, report on field survey sub project (NR 03) of Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy (CYPLUS). Natural Resource Analysis Program, prepared on behalf of the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Iron and McIlwraith Ranges. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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